As much as Woody Guthrie cultivated his persona as a freewheeling vagabond, through the titles of such songs as “Hard Travelin’,” “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You” and the one he picked for his autobiography, “Bound for Glory,” it’s worth noting that he spent the last 27 years of his life living in New York.
That’s at the heart of a new release being announced today on what would have been the folk music icon’s 102nd birthday, “My Name Is New York: Ramblin' Around Woody Guthrie's Town,” a three-disc audiobook of recorded stories that reflect his years in that state, plus music, including songs never previously released.
The set, due Sept. 23, includes new audio interviews with Guthrie’s close friends Pete Seeger and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, his singer-songwriter son, Arlo, and other friends and family members. It also includes earlier interviews with Guthrie's disciple, Bob Dylan, and others he influenced. The two-disc audio tour highlights 19 locations that figured significantly into Guthrie’s life in New York.
Seeger, for example, talks of watching Guthrie write his “Grapes of Wrath”-inspired song “Tom Joad.”
“Working on this project has been more than just a nostalgic walk down memory lane," said his daughter Nora Guthrie, who narrates the project that she co-produced with Steve Rosenthal and Michael Kleff.
"It’s been a precious adventure, collecting the stories -- and the voices -- of my father’s NYC friends and family, many of them who are now gone," Nora Guthrie said in a statement. "It’s been, at times, both a hilarious and tearful journey. And, just as for thousands of artists who have migrated here, you can see how New York City was absolutely critical in significantly chiseling my father’s destiny.”
The audio tour is rounded out with a third disc of music, including Guthrie’s first recording of “This Land Is Your Land,” and previously unreleased demo recordings he made in New York, including the title track.
Besides Guthrie himself, the songs feature musicians such as Elliott, the Almanac Singers, the Del McCoury Band, Billy Bragg & Wilco, the Demolition String Band, Lowry Hamner, Mike + Ruthy, Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir.
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